- Raising alternative pollinators like mason and leafcutter bees is an innovation in agricultural pollination.
- We need your help raising awareness:
- Native bees rock: They’re easy-to-raise, fun, and super pollinators!
- Not all bees sting: Unlike social bees, solitary bees are very gentle!
- Bee diversity works: A variety of bees increases crop yield and improves crop quality!
- It’s true: More bees = more food for more people!
- Insect pollinators need our help: Up to 40% of insect pollinators are facing extinction!
Pollinating farms and gardens with alternative managed bees like our mason and leafcutter bees is currently in what is called the innovator or early adopter phase. This means that you (yes you!) reading this right now, are a trendsetter. Congratulations, you are on the cutting edge of innovation!
While being a trendsetter is a lot of fun, there are some setbacks, the biggest one being that it can be hard to convince everyone else that what we’re doing makes sense or that it will work. Innovators tend to be willing to take risks but are also willing to listen to their intuition. And while advocating the use of alternative pollinators might feel right to us it might not make sense to others. Not only is raising native bees new, we also have the added struggle of working against the common thought that only honey bees pollinate our flowers. We have the extra job of changing misconceptions and changing the story of what we think we know about bees.
We would love to have these basic facts become common knowledge. Help us spread the word!
Native bees rock
Beyond honey bees, native bees have been pollinating our food and flowers for millions of years. They are the original and best pollinators and we’ve chosen two great bees that are generalists (love all types of flowers), easy-to-raise, gentle, and superior pollinators. Our favorite springtime bee is the mason bee, which emerges in cool 55°F/13°C and our favorite summertime bee is the leafcutter bee, which emerges when the weather starts to reach 75°F/24°C. Both are super pollinators that carry pollen dry on their underside which falls off on each flower visited. The honey bee carries pollen wet and sticky on their hind legs, with little pollen falling off.
Not all bees sting
90% of the world’s 20,000+ bee species live a solitary lifestyle. A fertile female bee that has the sole responsibility of gathering pollen and nectar, laying eggs, and gathering or packing mud or leaves does not have the time or desire to sting you. As a last resort is the only time a solitary bee will sting, like if you accidentally squish or step on her. Male bees of any species don’t even have stingers!
Bee diversity works
In 2016 Cornell University published a study that measured the pollination of wild and managed bees on New York state apple orchards. Introducing alternative managed bees and supporting wild bee populations increased pollination and seed set, but increasing the number of honey bees at the orchards didn’t show the same improvement. A variety of bees in a variety of sizes, shapes, and nesting habits work together to enhance crop yield and crop quality.
More bee diversity = more food for more people
When we diversify our portfolio of bee species on farms we increase pollination of our crops and we get healthier, bigger, and better fruits and vegetables. As the world’s population grows, issues of food security and food justice will become more and more important. Pollination is often overlooked but it’s an important solution to the problem of our future food supply.
Insect pollinators need our help
The slogan of Save Our Bees usually gives honey bees all the attention. Our wild native bees need our help too and up to 40% of all insect pollinator species are facing extinction. Raising hole-nesting native bees not only increases the managed native bees’ population, it also provides much-needed nesting habitat for other native bees. Learning how to care for native bees helps us care for all other bees. And because they make up about 70% of bee species diversity, we would love to raise awareness of the importance of our ground-nesting bees as well.
So, how can you help to raise awareness and help us find more innovators like you? It’s simple: act on the knowledge you gain here and help us raise mason bees. Help us refine what we know about native bees. Help us teach children, communities, and the public about the vital role of native bees in our food systems.